West Seattle's Bronwyn Edwards will appear in a special concert performance of her own work Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Fauntleroy Church 9140 California Ave. SW in West Seattle.

'No Bridges' spans Vashon's history, culture, and spirit

By Conrad Wesselhoeft

Vashon Island's history and spirit were the stars of "Vashon Suite: No Bridges," an original 45-minute song cycle that premiered Sunday to a wildly enthusiastic audience on the island.

"No Bridges" was written by West Seattle composer Bronwyn Edwards. It was performed by the 60-member Vashon Island Chorale under the direction of Dr. Gary Cannon.

A second and final performance will be held at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Tuesday, July 1) at Fauntleroy Church (9140 California Ave. SW, 98136) in West Seattle.

"This piece is incredibly special because it's about you," Cannon briefed the singers moments before the sold-out concert at Bethel Church. "It's your story. It's your Puget Sound that Chief Seattle paddled through. It's the strawberries that you bought yesterday. So sing your life. Sing your story."

An early song in the cycle, "Boy With a Paddle," painted a picture of young "Si'alth" exploring the shores and islands in his canoe. This boy was to grow into Chief Seattle.

A second song, "Leonosa," named after a 19th Century sailing ship, captured the rollicking seafaring spirit that brought trade and commerce to the Pacific Northwest. (“Hoist up the sails, boys, we’re heading up north where settlers’ axes are hewing down trees/Sail, Leonosa, in sight of the coast/blow, winds, blow . . . through turbulent seas.”)

A third song, "Strawberry Kisses," suggested summer days and romance in a lusciously whimsical tone.

Other songs in the cycle paid tribute to Colvos Passage, the Olympic Mountains, salmon, Orcas, eagles, ferryboats, and the island’s artistic community.

The title piece “No Bridges” underscored the “close yet distant” balance of life on an island adjacent a major city.

A photographic narrative by Vashon resident Rick Wallace accompanied the suite. It projected images as varied as Captain Vancouver and his ship HMS Discovery to wildlife to recent pictures of local artists at work.

In 2011, the Vashon Island Chorale invited composers to submit pieces for a concert celebrating the work of local composers who had strong ties to the island. Among the respondents was Australian-born pianist-composer Bronwyn Edwards, who submitted several songs written about Vashon Island, and a concept for a larger, more expanded future work.

"Her music was inventive, engaging, wonderfully crafted, and always singable," Cannon said. "It immediately captured our attention."

Two years later, Edwards was commissioned to produce her 11-part choral work, "No Bridges."

“Of the many premieres I have conducted, this one is the largest and has been perhaps the greatest joy to prepare," Cannon said.

Edwards is music director at Fauntleroy Church in West Seattle. She performs as a solo pianist at SeaTac International Airport during the holiday season and is a member of the folk-blues-jazz trio Trillium Soul.

"Looking across Puget Sound to Vashon Island is a daily ritual for me," she said. "Having the opportunity to write about it—and to bring island scenes to life with voices, harmony, instrumentation and soul—was an amazing gift."

Tickets for tonight's concert are $8 ($5 for seniors and students).

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